Steve Matthiasson, Winemaker
As winemaker for Acumen, Steve Matthiasson has a very clear focus: make wine that is an honest and joyous expression of the vineyard. Part of this preoccupation lies with his own winemaking philosophy, but it is equally a nod to the distinctive nature of Acumen’s organically-farmed vineyards on Atlas Peak. The high-elevation climate, volcanic soils and long growing season provide Acumen with fruit that has fully mature flavors at lower sugar levels, a quality that is prized by Matthiasson.
“The crowning achievement of Atlas Peak is a long growing season without the heat of the valley floor, which gives us wonderfully expressive wines that are not high in alcohol or over ripe,” notes Matthiasson. “The wines have backbone, but are not over the top. The key is to grow the wine in the vineyard and then careful extraction of tannins from the grapes. For Acumen, we’re looking to make wines that capture the finest qualities of the Old World and New World.”
Steve Matthiasson has farmed Acumen’s vineyards from the beginning and was part of the founding team that searched for the right site and ultimately selected the Atlas Peak property. He was captivated by the vineyard from the start and worked very closely with original winemaker Denis Malbec, who made Acumen’s first vintages. They shared a love for vineyards and a goal of making classic wines that express terroir, which contributed greatly to their selection of the Atlas Peak site and their successful collaboration with Acumen. Matthiasson took over as winemaker in 2016.
The farming life has held a fascination for Matthiasson since his childhood days on the family farm in North Dakota. He later studied horticulture at U.C. Davis, where he received a master’s degree, before immersing himself in sustainable farming in the San Joaquin Valley as a consultant. He co-authored a widely-regarded sustainable farming manual in 1999, and in 2002 he moved to the Napa Valley to work as a consultant on vineyard practices. Along with his wife, Jill Klein Matthiasson, he launched their own eponymous wine label in 2003, which has garnered significant critical acclaim. In addition, Matthiasson has developed an enviable list of past and current winery clients over the years, including Araujo Estate, Dalla Valle, Spottswoode, Chappellet, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, David Arthur, Duckhorn and Hall.
Steve Matthiasson enjoys the rustic, agrarian atmosphere at the Acumen estate on Atlas Peak, and has developed a strong bond with both the vineyard and Acumen team. He lives with his wife and children on their small farm and vineyard in Napa.
Garrett Buckland, Viticulturist
Garrett Buckland draws on extensive experience and deep knowledge of grape growing in the Napa Valley for his management of the Acumen vineyards. He grew up in a Napa Valley grape growing family – his father owns Buckland Vineyard Management – and has worked at every level of growing ultra-premium wine grapes, giving him keen insight into Acumen’s vineyard sites and how to manage the land and cultivate its grapes for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon from Atlas Peak.
For Buckland, there are certain elemental factors that contribute to a vineyard’s success – soils, drainage, elevation, microclimate – and he believes with great conviction that Acumen’s vineyards on Atlas Peak possess the ideal qualities for top-tier Cabernet Sauvignon. But there is another dimension of vineyard management that he feels elevates a site to the highest levels of quality: people. “It takes a dedicated team that is intimately familiar with every vine. We have a full-time crew of vineyard professionals and they touch a vine 40 times in a year. They know what’s best for our vineyards.”
Buckland oversees all aspects of Acumen’s prized Attelas and Edcora vineyards on Atlas Peak, which are farmed organically to produce wines of ideal ripeness, depth, complexity and phenolic concentration. He and winemaker Steve Matthiasson, who has worked with Buckland on Acumen’s vineyards from the start, are aligned in their goal of having earlier ripening grapes with fully mature flavors, and he is unabashed in his belief that Atlas Peak provides the perfect location to achieve this.
Many top wineries have turned to Buckland for his expertise in planting or managing their vineyards, including Araujo, Warren Winiarski, Realm, Knight’s Bridge, Baldacci Family and Kathryn Hall. He has a degree in viticulture and enology from U.C. Davis and serves as president of the Napa Valley Grape Growers.
Steven Rea, President
Steven Rea is Acumen’s keystone, anchoring the top-notch winemaking and vineyard teams and working closely with owners Eric Yuan and his family to build Acumen into a world-class Cabernet estate on Atlas Peak. Their vision for Acumen is to make Cabernet Sauvignon that represents the best of the Old World and New World in Napa Valley, and Rea, as president and estate director, has been central to this mandate from the beginning.
In addition to exceptional vineyards and vision, Rea notes that a key to their success has been to bring together a team of top-notch professionals who prize collaboration and a positive attitude. Rea’s focus at Acumen has been to combine individual skills and characters in a complementary way to make something that far exceeds the efforts of one individual.
With a deep background in real estate, eco-friendly project management and wine, Rea put together a team that included acclaimed vineyard management professionals Steve Matthiasson and Garrett Buckland and highly-regarded winemaker Denis Malbec to work with the Yuans on the acquisition of an ideal Napa Valley vineyard site. After acquiring the vineyard on Atlas Peak in 2012, Rea and his team undertook not just a significant vineyard development program, but the creation of the Acumen brand.
“Atlas Peak is the ideal location for what we are trying to achieve with Acumen,” says Rea. “The red, rocky soils, mountainside location and long growing season give us wines with fully mature flavors at moderate alcohol levels – a combination of elegance, complexity and structure. We have a very deliberate focus on making Cabernet with the finest qualities of the Old World and New World, and our team firmly believes we have the perfect vineyards to realize this goal.”
A native of Los Angeles, Steven Rea has enjoyed a successful career in real estate and management consulting in the U.S. and internationally. Early on he began focusing on environmental sustainability in his practice, and he has worked extensively to promote social and environmental sustainability in business. His love of wine led him to study with the Court of Master Sommeliers. He believes that wineries can be both responsible and successful at the same time, and he notes that passion and commitment to these beliefs are the keys to success.
Steve lives in Napa and rides his horse daily through Acumen’s Atlas Peak Vineyards. He regularly travels in the U.S. and Asia to share the Acumen story and its wines.